If you were to visit Kidderminster, England, today, you would be greeted by grand, Victorian textile mills that now mostly lie quiet. But, just a few decades ago, this quaint English town was home to more than thirty carpet manufacturers and was known as the heart and the birthplace of the carpet industry.
Interface owes much of its company heritage to this relatively unassuming town. Kidderminster is both the birthplace of the Debron technology used in the earliest fusion-bonded carpet tile, and coincidentally, the birthplace of designer David Oakey. Oakey is the founder of David Oakey designs and the chief designer behind dozens of our most celebrated products, including our new Past Forward™ carpet tile collection.
Patterns of the Past – Constructed for the Future
Past Forward is a celebration of some of our iconic patterns from decades past—many of which were some of Oakey’s most acclaimed designs. With 14 products featuring a bold color palette, Past Forward offers a range of dynamic carpet tile styles, including ornate rococo and renaissance visuals, retro patterns with scribbles and boxes, vintage-inspired patchwork styles, and traditional Turkish motifs.
The result is a collection that feels familiar, yet modern—perfect for a time when designers are looking to evoke a sense of nostalgia without sacrificing modern innovations. It’s also a fitting celebration for our 50th anniversary and a good opportunity to look back at our rich history.
In Oakey’s words, “It seems the perfect time to reflect on the work of the best designs in our history, reminiscent of the broadloom woven patterns, adapting the styles and looks to carpet tile construction.”
Interconnected Paths – From Kidderminster to LaGrange
As a small child living in rural England, Oakey may have lived in the center of the carpet universe, but his knowledge of the industry didn’t extend very far. Still, he saw carpet everywhere he looked, including in the fields surrounding his home, where his father used wool waste from the local factories as a low-cost, sustainable fertilizer. Oakey remembers looking out at a sea of mid-century pinks, purples, reds, and golds amid the crops. He loved the sight of it, but never would have imagined he would one day become one of the leading carpet design minds in the world.
The paths of David Oakey and Interface are woven together almost as if by fate. When Oakey eventually went on to study carpet design at Kidderminster College, an engineer by the name of Graham Scott was just a few streets away leading the development of a new, innovative idea: the Debron carpet tile. It wasn’t long after that our founder, Ray Anderson, would be in the same neighborhood licensing that same basic technology for manufacture in the United Sates.
After completing school, Oakey answered an ad to work as a carpet designer for Milliken in LaGrange, Georgia. It was here where Oakey and Ray Anderson would meet and be inspired by each other, and where Oakey and his team would begin the work to create many of the designs we are celebrating through the Past Forward collection.
Past Forward — Remastered, Reimagined, and Remade
Of course, Interface’s innovations only began with carpet tile. Ray Anderson had a vision to not only to change the world from rolled carpet to tiles, but also to produce products in a way that restored the world. Oakey, inspired by this bold vision, did his part to design some of the most radically innovative products that fulfilled that promise to our customers. Our sustainability journey is at the core of everything we do, and this collection is no exception. The Past Forward carpet tiles are manufactured using processes and materials that deliver a low carbon footprint and are constructed with recycled content.
It’s fitting that all those years ago, David Oakey became acquainted with the carpet industry as he watched vibrantly colored wool waste nourish the earth beneath his father’s crops—a stunning metaphor for the history, beauty, and sustainability at the center of this collection and all that we do.
To learn more about Past Forward, visit interface.com/pastforward.